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World GBC members show collective force at COP28 by signing an Open letter to negotiators

Today (6 December 2023), the built environment is centre stage during the ‘Multilevel

Action, Urbanisation and Built Environment/Transport’ day at the UN Climate Summit

COP28. The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), our global network of 75+

national Green Building Councils (GBCs), and leading businesses in the buildings and

construction sector are presenting a unified call to action to political leaders, stressing

the critical role of the built environment to deliver climate solutions.

The Open Letter is accompanied by a policy briefing that lays out the regulatory outcomes

urgently needed to scale up action and deliver on the sector’s huge potential. It also supports the Buildings Breakthrough (a high-level political announcement launched today endorsed by 25+ countries in the context of the Breakthrough Agenda global process), calling for ‘near-zero emission and resilient buildings as the new normal by 2030’.

The statement

The Open Letter goes beyond simply mitigating the negative impacts of the sector’s emissions, and makes bold claims about its potential for enormous contributions to social equity and financial prosperity. The letter highlights that beyond the opportunity to reduce 37% of total carbon emissions, the building and construction sector can also create $1.5 trillion in sustainable investment opportunities in emerging markets, and lift 2.8 billion people out of energy poverty.

The letter was fronted by signatories of WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment (a leadership initiative in the sustainable built environment arena), WorldGBC corporate partners (including ARUP, Buro Happold, CEMEX, Saint Gobain, Signify, Siemens, Skanska, Stora Enso, Schneider Electric, Knauf Insulation, WSP) and Green Building Councils (representing 46,000 private and public sector members around the world). A total of over 350 organisations and businesses have put their support behind the letter and the numbers are growing daily. These leaders are operating across every region on the planet, both on a local and global scale.

The challenge

The building and construction sector accounts for nearly 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions. It is a huge industry nexus and demand sector, with cities consuming 70% of all global resources. Whilst awareness of the sector’s impact and its potential as a climate solution is rising, so are its operating emissions, which have grown by an average of 1% year on year from 2015 to 2021.

The resilience of the global building stock is insufficient to cope with a growing population

alongside the impacts of climate change. Flooding and extreme heat pose an imminent risk not only to human life, but also to social cohesion and economic stability.

Last but certainly not least, the financial stakes are high. We see companies that are not treating decarbonisation as a serious business need and are therefore already paying a carbon premium in the short term; in the long term, they will miss out on emerging opportunities to secure market share, faced with shifting decarbonisation investment and regulatory environments.

The Open Letter ask

The WorldGBC network and its partners are calling for:

● Strong political leadership to scale the sustainable transformation of the built


● Climate Mitigation: Parties commit to the integration of building codes, sub-national

policy and commitment within their Nationally Determined Contributions, and pledge to

double their energy efficiency improvements and triple global renewable energy capacity

by 2030.

● Climate Adaptation: Parties agree on a global goal for adaptation and recognise the

role of buildings in anticipating, adapting, and responding to climate impacts and commit

to making greater efforts to integrate resilience and adaptation into existing policies and

programmes, including within the building sector.

● Climate Finance: Parties agree to increased funding for energy efficiency improvements

and Loss and Damage, and support a global reform of financial institutions for more just,

equitable and effective debt lending and borrowing.

● The Global Stocktake: Parties to commit to the Buildings Breakthrough as a platform

for collaboration between national governments and stakeholders to accelerate action

and optimise the role of buildings in closing the gaps identified in the Global Stocktake.

Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC, said:

“Climate Action is often misunderstood as human efforts to save the planet. In fact it is

humanity’s effort to save itself and the environment we have created to facilitate

prosperity, equity and growth. It’s about every government that wants to maintain stability

and cohesion, every business that wants to remain successful and financially viable, and

every person who enjoys the comforts of modern life.

In the built environment, we are falling short of the goals that will preserve us. And we

don’t need to. Solutions already exist to secure a better future. We can still get back on

track. To do that, we need an enabling policy environment, industry ambition, and

finance to leverage the huge potential of the built environment.

The numbers of industry leaders backing our Open Letter make a powerful statement to

send to policymakers. The industry is ready for change. The world is calling for change.

This COP28 can be the moment where leaders uphold their commitments and set out an

energy-efficient, regenerative, and just transition for the building sector. Are you ready?”

Find out more here and follow the campaign on social media at #BuildingTheTransition.

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